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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Top 2024 LB Payton Pierce Goes In-Depth on Notre Dame, Next Stages of Recruitment

February 13, 2023

2024 Lovejoy High School (Texas) linebacker Payton Pierce‍ might be in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down. In fact, the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder might be even busier as he attempts to win a state title wrestling mat. 

“It’s going well,” Pierce told ISD. “I’ve been pretty busy with wrestling going on right now. I have regionals and then state next week. It’s the most important weeks right now, so it’s pretty crazy with wrestling every day after school and then I have football in the mornings.” 

As of Friday, Pierce hadn’t lost a match and the four-star prospect is also making sure he’s improving his game on the football field.

“I’m focusing a little bit on the offense side,” said Pierce. “I”m trying to do a little offense and throw the ball around. I’m trying to get better at throwing it if we need me to play quarterback. I’m looking to get better at everything. 

“We might change up some stuff in our defense and I might have to try a new position. I’m getting better in everything from getting off blocks and tackling. Spring ball will roll around here in a little bit and I’ll get to fine-tune those little details and get ready for the fall. I’m a lot stronger and I feel a little faster. I’m ready to get going so I can go hit people.” 

When it comes to recruiting, Pierce saw his process change a bit when Notre Dame graduate assistant James Laurinaitis left for Ohio State a few weeks ago. The two had developed a close relationship throughout the last year, but Pierce’s feelings towards Notre Dame haven’t changed as the staff has continued to show him how much he’s needed in South Bend. 

“It’s been about the same if not even more,” Pierce said of the communication with Notre Dame. “I’ve talked with Coach (Al) Golden and (Chad) Bowden every day. I’ve talked to (Marcus) Freeman. They’re still in contact with me and I’m a priority for them. I’m communicating daily with all three of them. It’s going well. I still have a visit scheduled for spring ball.” 

Yes, Laurinaitis leaving certainly complicated the moment, but the Texas native isn’t one to overreact and has taken time to process the big picture. 

“Notre Dame is Notre Dame and that’s not going to change,” stated Pierce. “That’s one of the main reasons I’ve liked Notre Dame since the beginning. It’s not because of the coaches, but because of what it is. It doesn’t who they bring in. It’ll be someone good because it is Notre Dame. It’s a high-end program on a lot of things they do. 

“I like the school and I think everything is still the same there. It sucks Coach Laurinaitis is gone to Ohio State because I had a great relationship with him and now I have a great relationship with him at Ohio State. It’s still Notre Dame and I’m still very interested and that’s why I’m coming back to watch practice.” 

The effort from Freeman isn’t lost on the Lovejoy star. Pierce knows Freeman has a great deal on his plate, but the head coach at Notre Dame still makes time to check in. 

“It means a lot,” explained Pierce. “Having the head coach of Notre Dame calling and texting you is pretty special and not a lot of people get that luxury. It’s awesome. I love Coach Freeman and his linebacker background. I like the coach he is, the type of guy he is and the type of players he recruits. It all appeals to me. That’s why I love talking with him and he’s one of my favorite coaches to talk to.” 

Bowden has been a consistent name in many recruitments and it’s no different with Pierce. Notre Dame’s Director of Recruiting has made his presence felt by making the recruiting process fun, which Pierce appreciates.

“I have a lot of funny stories with him,” laughed Pierce. “He’s pretty funny. Every day there is something new. He’s awesome. He’s by far one of the funniest guys I’ve been recruited by. He does a really good job. Recruiting is hard and stressful, so it’s good to have guys like him because he can lighten things up and put less pressure on you.” 

What’s next for Pierce? The Midwest. 

“I’m going to visit Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee,” Pierce stated. “That’s all I know of for practices this spring. I’ve got all the Midwest visits scheduled because those are a little further away. I’m going to drive down the road and go check out the schools that are around here. I’ve got like four universities in a 2.5-hour radius. Those aren’t hard to get to.” 

And when it comes to a commitment, Pierce isn’t close to ending his recruitment, but his spring visits will be crucial to narrowing it down to which five schools will get official visits in June. 

“I’m not sure when this summer, but my decision will be this summer,” said Pierce. “I want to do it before my senior season. I don’t want to go in and still deal with recruiting. I want to get it over with, but I also want to watch practices, take my officials and decide. 

“I think I’m going to have a good understanding of where I want to go. I’m so fortunate to have my parents. My dad and I can go to those places and check them out. I’m lucky to have that. We’re taking this very seriously because this is a big decision. We’re studying, researching and finding every way to make my decision easier - and not just feeling wise, but analytically too. I’ll definitely be sure when I make my decision.” 

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